Solar system expands

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Kevin McCartney, professor of geology at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, is the mastermind behind the Maine Solar System Model, a three-dimensional, 93 million-to-one scale model along Route 1, from Topsfield to Presque Isle.

img_1227Constructed in 2003, it originally included the sun, nine planets (poor Pluto hadn’t been demoted yet), and seven moons. With the reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet, McCartney and students have added other dwarf planets, such as Ceres and Eris, and the interplanetary travel route has doubled from 40 to about 80 miles. Almost all of the planets can be seen from Route 1.

Like the rest of the model, the parts for Ceres and Eris were built and funded by the local community, including students from more than a dozen schools that span a wide area of northern Maine. As more dwarf planets are discovered, McCartney plans to add them to the solar system model. That, he says, might extend it far beyond Aroostook county. “It may not be too long before we have a dwarf planet near you,” he quipped.

The sun, by the way, is at the Northern Maine Museum of Science, in Folsom Hall, at UMPI. Nothing too high tech here, but it’s a great teaching museum and especially fun for kids.

If you’re truly a planethead, stay at the Old Iron Inn B&B, which McCartney operates with his wife, Kate. Comfy rooms, wonderful breakfasts, lots of good reads, and, true to its name, irons everywhere.

1 COMMENT

  1. That’s pretty cool. So I guess if the sun was an actual ball out in the open, rather than painted in the interior of the museum, and you could see it from the Earth model a mile away, it would appear to be the same size as the sun does in the sky.

    It’s also interesting that the entire inner solar system out to mars is contained withing the same town, while Pluto is many miles away.

  2. You’re testing the limits of my science knowlege (neither that nor math is a strong point). If you’re really curious, contact Pr. McCartney through the Old Iron Inn or UMPI. But yes, the whole model is really cool.